Photo: Mark Hicks, president of Disciple Bible Outreach Ministries, speaks to a March 5 session of the National Association of Conference Presidents
NASHVILLE, Tenn. –– Mark Hicks, top executive of the North Carolina-based Bible Outreach Ministries invited conference presidents of United Methodist Men to help bring DISCIPLE Bible Study to prisons across the United States.
DISCIPLE Bible Outreach Ministries has entered a partnership with the General Commission on United Methodist Men and the groups are presently engaged in forming groups in Virginia, Kansas and Tennessee. Work is planned for the Baltimore/Washington area and the state of Georgia or Louisiana later in the year.
“We are very excited about this project,” said Hicks, president of the new national movement. “We draw strength from the Lord and the servant heart of prison ministry advocates all across the connection to make this happen.”
A five-person board will guide the national ministries. Members of the national steering team are: Bishop Richard B. Wilke, principal author of the DISCIPLE Bible Study series; Bishop Kenneth Carder, professor of the practice of ministry at Duke Divinity School; Ernie Pearson, partner with Nexsen|Pruet Law Firm of Raleigh, Gil Hanke, top staff executive of the General Commission on United Methodist Men; and Hicks, board president.
“This new board is a dream-team,” said Hicks. “Their vast experience and dedication to the work of the Lord is exceptional. I am honored and humbled to work with them.”
Hicks recommends the creation of separate state organizations to recruit and train volunteers and to raise funds. Those state organizations will be trained and supported by the national steering committee.
Hicks, who has been leading the DISCIPLE program in correctional settings since 1999, says the studies are transformational for both volunteers and inmates. “I was always excited by the possibility of transformation among the inmates,” said Hicks. “But I’m equally excited by the transformation occurring in our volunteers and, as a result, our churches.”
Hicks reminded the presidents that John Wesley visited a prison each week and required all clergy to do the same. He noted that there are now more than 2 million persons in prison in America, a mission field larger than many nations. “There were about 200,000 prisoners in 1970; by 2010, that figure had increased to more than 2 million.” said Hicks. Nationally, the rate of recidivism is staggering with some states toping 70 percent. That’s seven of ten inmates going back to prison within three years of release.”
“I was involved in a prison ministry weekend at a maximum security prison in Texas,” said Hanke. “That experience changed my whole perspective and perception of prisons and the need for our engagement in this vital ministry.”
For additional information, contact Hicks (MCHIcks@northstate.net) (www.disciplebibleoutreach.org).